Management Consulting Jobs: MBA Graduates and the Gig Economy

A freelance management consultant has a video conference with a client.Per the market and consumer data site Statista, approximately 59 million people in the United States were freelancing in 2020 (roughly 36% of the country’s workforce), up from 53 million in 2014. Moreover, freelance work generated $1.2 trillion in 2020, according to a report from the global freelancing portal Upwork. The steep growth of freelance work over the past decade has given rise to what’s known as the gig economy, and it’s safe to assume this type of work will continue to grow in the coming years. In fact, freelance management consulting jobs are continually growing in several industries.

There are many reasons why workers prefer freelancing as opposed to working a traditional corporate job. According to a recent article in Forbes, the top elements that are drawing people to the gig economy are flexibility, being your own boss, and the ability to choose your own projects. Freelance work generally equates to more freedom.

Students who pursue an online MBA degree will face a choice after graduation: either direct their career toward a steady, salaried middle-management position at one company, or use their skills and training to consult with multiple companies on a contractual (freelance) basis.

What Is the Gig Economy?

Plenty of people ask the question “What is the gig economy?” without realizing they know it by a different name. In this instance, the word “gig” equates to contract work or temp work. Gig economy workers are self-employed individuals who accept jobs on a contractual or short-term basis.

Other terms, such as “contingent worker,” denote essentially the same thing — a skilled worker who engages in temporary forms of employment. More often than not, this arrangement is simply referred to as “freelancing.” There are now many consulting jobs to be had in the gig economy, including in areas such as information technology, software, finance, and business.

What Is Management Consulting?

To understand what management consulting is, one first must understand what a consultant is in a general sense. Quite simply, a consultant is brought on by a company as a professional advisor on a contractual basis. Typically, the consultant will have an area of expertise that the company wants to utilize, such as operations management, analysis, or strategy development. Whatever the focus, consultants are engaged for one main purpose: to figure out how to make the organization run more efficiently.

While most companies have a need for full-time MBA holders, outside consultants with specialized expertise in specific types of management are often hired to handle unusual circumstances, such as business expansions or other projects that fall outside of a company’s typical order of business.

Management consultants are brought to provide expertise in solving complex problems, for strategic advice, and for their ability to improve company operations and financial health. Consultants also have highly specialized analytical skills and resources that most companies lack. Finally, management consultants bring external objectivity to the table, something that can’t be provided internally.

Why Should MBAs Pursue Management Consulting as a Career?

The most common reasons for professionals to opt into freelancing or consulting rather than pursue typical 9-to-5 careers include flexible hours, a desire for work-life balance, greater respect, better pay, and the opportunity to be their own boss.

Although it’s demanding work, there are some distinct advantages to being a management consultant.

  • Management consultants frequently move from project to project, gaining experience in a wide variety of industries. Most spend the first few years moving around until they find the industry that best suits them, at which point they can focus on that industry as their specialty.
  • Individuals in this profession can put all the skills they learned in their MBA programs to good use. Management consulting is a demanding job that requires wearing many proverbial hats. One day a consultant may need to utilize their research skills, while the next day they’ll present their findings to board members. Being a management consultant means being proficient in multiple areas, including problem-solving, critical thinking, and project management.
  • Consultants earn high salaries. According to the compensation website PayScale, management consultants earn a median annual salary of approximately $88,600 as of August 2021. However, in the gig economy, rates for management consulting jobs can be negotiated to levels that are higher than average.

Another driving force behind the rise of the independent worker is technology. New platforms, programming languages, devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), and new operating practices are constantly being adopted by the business world. Consequently, companies are finding that hiring for gig positions can be faster and more efficient than maintaining full-time positions that can quickly be made obsolete by new technologies. The gig economy model enables businesses to bring new talent on board and offload unneeded skills much more easily.

Over the past few decades, the internet has changed the way both companies and workers view the nature of work. As a result, more people are accepting the challenge of stepping away from the 9-to-5 office model to pursue careers as self-employed professionals in the gig economy.

Enter the Workforce with Confidence

Nationally recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Online MBA” program, Ohio University’s Online MBA degree program is designed to position graduates to succeed in both the traditional workforce and the gig economy. The program offers nine concentrations including finance, health care, executive management, business analytics, and more.

For those who plan on pursuing management consulting work in the gig economy, an MBA from Ohio University can lay the educational foundation for success.

Recommended Readings

Four Ways Predictive Analytics is Changing the Course of the Future

Seven Steps to Improving Organizational Communication

The Future of E-Recruiting and Virtual Human Resources


The Balance Careers, “What Does a Management Consultant Do?”

Forbes, “Freelance Management Consulting Is Large And Growing: Details Inside”

Forbes, “Full-time Freelancing Lures More Americans”

PayScale, Average Management Consultant Salary

Statista, Number of freelance workers in the United States from 2014 to 2020

Upwork, Freelance Forward 2020, “Definition of Gig Economy”